AN APPRECIATION by
The Italians call her “L’unica”; in Amsterdam she is “The
Queen of Bel Canto” and she is recognised internationally
as a singing-actress of the very first rank.
But her success has been hard won.
Born in Adjud, Rumania, in 1952, Nelly Miricioiu’s life under
Ceaucescu’s dictatorship was almost unbelievably harsh. Her family were
persecuted, and later she herself became a victim of the state police,
suffering appalling and repeated abuse, imprisonment and eventually a
series of breakdowns. It is, in itself, a story of almost operatic
dimensions - and unshakable determination. Eventually, after winning a
string of international singing competitions, opportunities to sing abroad
allowed her to escape.
She has only ever returned to her homeland once - briefly for a concert
- and considers herself a British soprano, having now been a citizen
of her adopted country for over 25 years.
In 2008 she returned to Rumania for a concert performance of Adriana
Lecouvreur and is scheduled to return there in May 2009
for a performance of Norma.
Nelly Miricioiu made her debut in Mozart’s Magic Flute, as the
Queen of the Night, and for more than a decade sang leading roles at the
state theatres in Rumania. And so she was already in her thirties when she
made her Western debut with Scottish Opera in 1982 in La Traviata, a role
she has sung over 350 times. She has appeared, to
great acclaim, at all the major operatic theatres in the world -
from London to Sydney, from Vienna to Milan, and from New York to Paris,
Moscow, Munich, Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Amsterdam, San Francisco,
Washington and Madrid.
Her unusually large repertoire ranges from Mozart, to Verdi, Puccini and
the verismo movement to the twentieth century with Respighi and Zandonai,
taking in French and Russian composers too. But it is perhaps in the great
bel canto operas that she has really found her niche, bringing a
drama and conviction to technically challenging music that few other
singers could match.
Miricioiu’s distinctive timbre and plangent tone can be heart
stoppingly beautiful, but she has never been afraid to take risks in her
search for theatrical truth. She also enjoys a challenge, and for Opera
Rara she has made a highly acclaimed series of recordings, largely of
hitherto unknown works from the bel canto canon, including complete
operas by Pacini. Mercadante and Donizetti. For this she has had to learn
roles for which there is no clear tradition to follow, no other
performances to refer to. And doing so with the knowledge that she will
only ever perform them once. Such dedication to exploring hidden jewels of
the repertoire does a great service to music.
Yet - inexplicably - she has never been embraced by the big
mainstream record companies and many of her principal roles have never
been commercially recorded. Her reputation lies largely on the first rate
performances delivered in the theatre. In that sense she is an old-style
diva who has on many occasions been compared to the great singers of the bel
canto era - Giuditta Pasta, Isabella Colbran and Giulia Grisi - and
who has not had a career based on hype and marketing, or carefully
engineered recordings, but on the integrity and commitment and sheer hard
work she brings to her roles on stage.
Which is why the legendary live recordings that have been carefully
restored by Celestial Audio are so cherishable. Here, at last, is a
chance to discover some wonderful performances by an intelligent and
generous performer, whose difficult early life translates so clearly into
heartfelt, impassioned singing, whose voice, with it’s myriad of colours
and exquisite shadings brings humanity and pathos to her creations.
Here you will find her Maria Stuarda - by turn limpidly beautiful,
and scorchingly angry; her Ermione blazing forth unforgettably in an
electrifying concert performance from Brussels; her Elisabetta in Don
Carlos, achingly sad, her subtle phrases filled with wistful melancholy
and regret; from Amsterdam, her Norma - overwhelmingly tragic in the final
scenes - and her dazzling Armida as described by Michael Davidson in a
review of the concert in
“The highly individual timbre of Miricioiu’s voice, her
imagination and intensity, her exceptional range and sense of timing make
for a unique talent. Her singing evoked so much poetry, strength and
eroticism in the score that sets and costumes became irrelevant…The
Concertgebouw shook with very un-Dutch exuberance.”
Today Nelly Miricioiu continues to explore new repertoire, always
finding delight in the pleasure of sharing music with an audience, always
quick to enjoy the success of her colleagues, and very content with her
British family who have brought her the stability and happiness so lacking
in the first part of her career.
She is a remarkable singer, and an equally remarkable human being whose
work - and life - deserve to be remembered and celebrated.
Nelly Miricioiu's Official Website: http://www.nellymiricioiu.com
Read an interview with Nelly Miricioiu :
Read a further appreciation of Nelly Miricioiu and
It remains a matter of some bewilderment
that while Nelly has been a British citizen for well over twenty years she
is still often referred to as "the Romanian soprano" !!!
Indeed, a review of her London (2009) recital used this expression
in its introduction.
Only recently has Nelly paid a return visit to the land of
her birth for a performance of "Adriana Lecouvreur".
Married to an Englishman, and with a young son, one would have thought
that her "Britishness" assured, yet she continues to be referred
to as some foreign singer and engaged by the resident companies on an
adhoc basis. Thankfully, OPERA RARA appreciated her talent and
produced several recordings in which we can enjoy her artistry in top
Her fan base is world wide and "The
Queen of the Concertgebouw" threatens to snatch Leyla Gencer's title
of "Queen of the Pirates". Nelly's broadcast and
inhouse recordings circulate widely and with peer-to-peer transfers, more
and more of her performances have gained currency. This remarkable artist
deserves greater recognition for her achievements.